Techniques for evaluation and management of tongue-base obstruction in pediatric obstructive sleep apnea

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Purpose of review

Tongue-base obstruction (TBO) is a common cause of persistent obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy in children. This review discusses available diagnostic modalities and surgical treatment options for the management of TBO.

Recent findings

Recently, a systematic review that included nine studies using drug-induced sleep endoscopy (DISE) in the evaluation of children with persistent OSA after tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy identified the tongue-base as the most common site of obstruction.


TBO is a common and correctable cause of persistent OSA in children. Diagnostic modalities include awake flexible laryngoscopy, plain neck films, DISE, and cine MRI. Because DISE and cine MRI are performed in a sleep-like state, they are fairly reliable in identifying the site of obstruction. As continuous positive airway pressure is often poorly tolerated in the pediatric population, there is considerable interest in surgical options for TBO. Depending on the location and the severity of the obstruction, interventions such as lingual tonsillectomy, posterior midline glossectomy, tongue suspension suture, epiglottopexy, hypoglossal nerve stimulation, tongue–lip adhesion, and hyoid suspension may play a role in management.

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